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Material Methods

Material Methods
Researching and Thinking with Things

First Edition

November 2019 | 208 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

How do you research materiality and material culture? 

How do you use material ‘things’ to research social life? 

Exploring a range of tools and approaches, Material Methods: Researching and Thinking with Things is a practical and inspiring guide to researching the material world. Covering the full research process, from planning your project to analysing your data, this book:

  • Explores a range of interdisciplinary methods.
  • Brings complex ideas to life with detailed case studies and examples.
  • Helps you to think critically and creatively about your research.

It is essential reading for students and researchers across the social sciences and humanities who are interested in researching materiality or using material culture in their research. 

1 Introduction
2 Orienting Yourself to Things
3 Object Interviews and Elicitations
4 Provocative Methods: Cultural Probes and Arts-based Methods
5 Understanding Things-in-Relations: Surface Assemblages, Inventories and Interviews
6 Follow the Things
7 Ethnographic Approaches
8 Analyzing, Writing and Disseminating

This is the first comprehensive presentation and review of methods for the study of material things that incorporates the advances in material culture studies and a variety of anthropological and sociological developments of recent decades. It has extraordinary breadth including both the planning of research and the presentation of results, alongside considerations of analysis and theory, taken from a broad spectrum between art and science and all delivered in a clear and thoughtful style. There are many original ideas and suggestions for how to proceed. The result will be invaluable for students and researchers wanting to study our ever expanding world of material and visual culture.

Daniel Miller
University College London

What an excellent book Sophie Woodward has written! In ‘Material Methods’ she brings into the methodological mainstream a sophisticated and provocative analysis of the possibilities of researching the material world, in a most timely way. She considers what it means for researchers to attune themselves to and engage with the vitality of ‘things’, in ways that will provoke and inspire them to think and research differently. In chapters that cover the whole research process and span a wide range of material methods, she deftly weaves a discussion that will help the reader to be theoretically astute, practically informed, and inspired to try out new approaches.  Whether or not you plan to use material methods, this book has the potential to change not only the way you do your research, but also your theoretical take on the world.

Jennifer Mason
The University of Manchester

An insightful synthesis of key currents in studies of materiality and an essential guide for actually doing materiality studies. This book will be invaluable in helping researchers and students understand the different ways they can work with objects in their research practice.

Ian Woodward
University of Southern Denmark

Sage College Publishing

You can purchase this book and request an instructor sample on our US College site:

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This title is also available on SAGE Research Methods, the ultimate digital methods library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.